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Virus Pushes Singapore Politicians Into Social Media Square Off – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Packed rallies are out, along with their cheers and jeers. In comes the Internet, with its memes and trolls.

The era of social distancing ushered in by the deadly coronavirus has forced Singapore’s political parties to face off online in the lead-up to a national election in less than a week.

“Compared to past elections, parties clearly are adopting a more experimental approach to sustain people’s interest and meet different needs,” said Carol Soon, senior research fellow and head of the society and culture department at the Institute of Policy Studies in Singapore.

Though previous elections have increasingly seen political parties vie for attention online, social media is quickly shaping up to be a key pillar in campaign strategies this time around. The shift comes as politicians face public health restrictions on election activities with the island still grappling with virus infections. That includes the scrapping of physical rallies, typically held outdoors at stadiums which sometimes attract tens of thousands of voters.

Social media has presented an opportunity for these parties to obtain greater access to voters, many of whom are digitally-savvy and increasingly politically engaged.

Equal Access

Ahead of the July 10 polls, most opposition parties have sought to reach more voters by bolstering their content on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They are also making use of the ability to conduct live video broadcasts on platforms such as YouTube and Zoom.

To facilitate online campaigning, venues have been provided for candidates to do live streaming at certain time slots throughout the day during the campaign period, equipped with Internet connectivity at subsidized rates.

Minutes after Parliament was dissolved in June, the Workers’ Party – the main opposition force – posted a video introducing the 12 candidates it intends to field in the coming polls. The video of its line-up of candidates smiling for the camera and set to soaring music has garnered 210,000 views to date.

Tan Cheng Bock, the 80-year-old leader of the Progress Singapore Party, became a sensation after he attempted to use millennial slang while addressing the press during a walkabout. Tan has avidly posted content on Instagram, including a video showing how he types with a single finger, in an effort to relate to younger voters.

“Cyberspace has helped open up Singapore’s political culture,” said Cherian George, a professor of media studies at Hong Kong Baptist University’s School of Communication. Whether that would have an impact on “electoral outcomes is a very different question. So far, the answer is no,” he said.

The Singapore Democratic Party said it’s “constantly looking for ways to creatively” get its message out on social media, but there still are limitations to the online reach. “We have always depended on rallies and large walkabouts which are banned for this election,” Chairman Paul Ananth Tambyah said in an emailed response to questions.

Many of the country’s present ministers, who hail from the ruling People’s Action Party or PAP, already are established on the same online platforms. The party has governed the Southeast Asian nation since independence in 1965. While Singapore doesn’t allow opinion polls, most analysts expect the PAP to easily win again in a race that will see all 93 seats contested by at least two parties for just the second time.

The PAP has revved up its social media activity by posting video segments explaining the party’s stance on key policy issues. It’s focused on the government’s handling of the coronavirus and the economic fallout. Ministers are also posting more updates about their activities on the ground during the campaign season. Collectively, the posts have garnered thousands of likes.

Trial by Internet

But with greater access, also comes greater scrutiny. Social media has proven to be a double-edged sword that can inflict damage on the image of candidates and parties as well.

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s blunder during a speech was widely shared, leading to memes poking fun at him and his comments. Heng is widely seen as the PAP’s successor to current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The Progress Singapore Party’s Tan — a former PAP lawmaker — also had a near slip in rallying support for the ruling party instead of his own.

Just days before, PAP candidate Ivan Lim faced a wave of allegations online over his behavior when he was in the military and as an executive at a unit of conglomerate Keppel Corp Ltd. Lim withdrew from contest shortly after, saying he didn’t want the allegations to distract from the PAP’s efforts. The incident prompted Prime Minister Lee to caution against a “culture of trial by the Internet.”

“It sets a very damaging precedent that you can condemn somebody and write him off on the basis of an Internet campaign,” Lee said at a virtual press conference on June 29. “We don’t have time to settle it now, but we can’t simply write off and destroy people like this.”

In October, Singapore enacted a fake news law that empowers the government to issue correction orders and even force social media platforms to restrict access to web-based content it deems untrue. Officials have said the law is needed to quell errant online information — drawing criticism from the opposition and even Facebook Inc., amid concerns it would set a precedent for stifling free speech.

Since general elections were announced by the prime minister last month, officials continued to invoke the law. In addition to targeting individual Facebook users, a correction order was also issued on Saturday against the Singapore Democratic Party over statements about the city-state’s population target.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law – The Globe and Mail

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Police lead Hong kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai away from his home after arresting him under the new national security law in Hong Kong, on Aug. 10, 2020.

VERNON YUEN/AFP/Getty Images

The new national security regime imposed by Beijing in Hong Kong has been used to detain one of the city’s best-known democracy advocates, with hundreds of police officers arresting media tycoon Jimmy Lai and raiding his newspaper’s headquarters.

Mr. Lai, a billionaire who has enraged Beijing with his public criticism of the Communist Party, was taken in handcuffs from his home early Monday. He is accused of colluding with foreign powers, a new crime under the national security law that came into force July 1.

Police also arrested two of Mr. Lai’s sons and four of his top executives, including Cheung Kim-hung, the chief executive of media company Next Digital, and Chow Tat-kuen, the company’s chief financial officer. Everyone at the company taken into custody was denied bail, said Mark Simon, the top aide to Mr. Lai, who is the founder and majority owner of Next Digital, which publishes newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

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Some 200 officers were deployed for the operation, which included a raid of Apple Daily, the newspaper Mr. Lai founded. Police seized about 20 boxes of material, Apple Daily reported, saying officers also tried to seize servers – a move staff attempted to block. The police operation continued into Monday evening. A live video stream showed officers questioning reporters and examining papers on their desks.

Police ultimately took some servers, as well as three boxes of documents from the sports department, Mr. Simon said in an interview. The raid, he said, is “the start of an effort to shut us down.”

Also arrested Monday under the national security law was Agnes Chow, a young politician who has worked closely with Joshua Wong, the city’s most prominent pro-democracy activist.

A total of 10 people were arrested, Hong Kong police said, on charges of foreign collusion and conspiracy to defraud.

The police denied any political motive for the arrests, saying they were related to criminal acts and not an attack on the news media.

But critics said Monday marks a new stage in the changes sweeping Hong Kong, as Beijing asserts greater control. Over the summer, pro-democracy scholars have been fired, legislative candidates have been disqualified, an election was postponed for a year and publishers and libraries alike have rushed to censor content now considered subversive or secessionist. Police have outlawed slogans and songs and have arrested young people carrying flags calling for independence.

Mr. Lai numbers among Beijing’s most hated figures in Hong Kong, a man who has used his social standing and wealth in the service of democracy – unlike other billionaires in the city, many of whom have been unwilling to risk the financial consequences of angering China’s leaders. Mr. Lai has been called a “traitor” and a “force of evil” by Communist Party-controlled press. In April, he was among 15 people arrested on charges of organizing and participating in protests – which police called unlawful assembles – that roiled Hong Kong last year. In late July, he reported being followed by unknown people.

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Last week, the United States imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other city officials. China responded Monday with sanctions against 11 U.S. officials, including senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

In the midst of the deepening rift between Beijing and Washington, the Hong Kong Liaison Office, which represents the mainland in the city, lashed out at people it accused of celebrating the imposition of sanctions on the city’s officials.

“These people are unabashedly arrogant and once again unintentionally revealed their own evil design – that they are the agents the U.S. deploys in Hong Kong, and they are the pawns of the U.S. in messing up Hong Kong,” the office wrote in a statement Monday.

“These people have completely betrayed and walked away from their country and nationality,” the statement continued. “These people are doomed to be indelibly nailed to the pillar of shame in our history.”

The statement did not name Mr. Lai, who has openly called for the backing of Western democracies for Hong Kong. In a May 29 New York Times article, in which he presaged his own imprisonment, he wrote: “As we enter this new phase of our struggle, we need the support of the West, especially the United States.” Last year he travelled to Washington, D.C., to meet with Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

On Twitter, Mr. Lai has pilloried Chinese President Xi Jinping, calling him “the most absolute dictator in human history”; praised Mr. Pompeo for his critique of China’s leaders; and raised the alarm over the national security law that has now ensnared him.

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Hong Kong “is under siege,” he wrote July 29. A day later, he said the city is now “worse than China.” Many in Hong Kong share Western values and believe in human rights, “and our dignity instinctively rebels against tyranny,” he said. As a result, he predicted, Hong Kong is perceived by Beijing “like Xinjiang and will be treated so” – a reference to the northwestern region of China, where authorities have placed hundreds of thousands of people, many of them Muslim Uyghurs, in centres for forced political indoctrination and skills training.

Leaders in Hong Kong and Beijing have sought to reassure the public that the national security law would affect only a small number of people – those who pose a genuine threat.

But with the arrest of Mr. Lai, “the message is clear that this is a law that is not just meant for spies and bomb makers,” said Michael Vidler, a Hong Kong solicitor who has represented some of the city’s most prominent democracy activists. Instead, it can be used against “anybody who is perceived by Hong Kong authorities to be speaking out.”

Mr. Lai was arrested 40 days after the law came into force.

“It is just so terribly sad to see, in such a short period of time, Hong Kong apparently tumbling over the abyss,” Mr. Vidler said.

The new law pledges to protect freedom of speech and of the press.

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But the arrest of Mr. Lai and other executives, “and the raid on the newsroom, are a direct assault on Hong Kong’s press freedom and signal a dark new phase in the erosion of the city’s global reputation,” the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, said in a statement. Among those arrested Monday was Wilson Li, a former student activist who has worked as a freelance contributor to Britain’s ITV News.

“Today’s events raise worries that such actions are being used to erase basic freedoms in Hong Kong,” the FCC said.

The formal charges against Mr. Lai accuse him of breaking the law on foreign collusion and fraud. But the “surprise attack” against him, his family and his company “actually reflects the government’s intention to contain and control the media and publishing freedoms in Hong Kong,” said Wu Qiang, a former Tsinghua University scholar who is an expert in Chinese social movements.

“In short, Beijing’s definition of national security doesn’t leave any room for freedom, and Beijing wants Hong Kong people and the world to hear it clearly.”

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the territory’s current and former police chiefs and eight other top officials for what Washington says is their role in curtailing political freedoms in the territory. Reuters

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Toronto Wolfpack players take to social media to protest missing paycheques – TimminsToday

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Toronto Wolfpack players took to social media Monday to protest not being paid.

“Technically stranded in U.K.,” tweeted Australian prop Darcy Lussick. “No visa so I can’t work, no help getting home to Australia as promised. About to be evicted from my house.

“A lot of people have it a lot worse then me but this situation has gone too far now.”

Several players sent out the same social media message on a black background: “Third month of no pay for the players, staff and families of @TorontoWolfpackOfficial @RugbyFootballLeague #Forgotten #MentalHealth.”

It appears the players chose Monday to state their case because they were last paid June 10 — via June 1 paycheques, which covered May, coming late. The transatlantic rugby league team missed the July 1 and Aug. 1 payrolls.

“When are you going to step in and help the welfare of players who are contracted to your competition?” Lussick asked the Rugby Football League, the sport’s governing body in England. 

The Wolfpack declined to respond “at this time” to the player complaints.

The transatlantic Wolfpack are on the selling block after standing down last month due to financial problems. Majority owner David Argyle, who is stepping aside, has guaranteed that the missing pay will come but Wolfpack chairman and CEO Bob Hunter has said Argyle is not currently in a position to make good on that promise.

Four groups are interested in purchasing the Wolfpack, according to Hunter. The hope is they might be able to help take care of the missing payroll.

Time is of the essence with Super League saying a new application to return to the league will have to be in by the end of the month.

As one of the Wolfpack’s seven import players, Lussick faces visa issues in addition to the financial problems. The imports have a visa that allows them to spend six months of the year in England, which works when the team spends time on both sides of the Atlantic.

But the pandemic has kept the players in England, meaning their visa time has run out. The Wolfpack were also providing housing for the imports, which has also been affected by the financial pinch. 

Australian-born Samoan international Ricky Leutele has already signed with the Melbourne Storm for the rest of the season with fellow Wolfpack marquee player Sonny Bill Williams, a former All Black, expected to join him with the NRL’s Sydney Roosters.

The Wolfpack have told their players they are free to negotiate their own deals and go out on loan in 2020. The franchise has said it wants to field a team in 2021 but that depends on rugby league authorities and the outcome of a possible sale.

New Zealand’s Bodene Thompson has been linked to England’s Leeds Rhinos. 

England international Kallum Watkins, who never got to play for the Wolfpack after signing in May, is reportedly being targeted by both the Salford Red Devils and Hull Kingston Rovers.

Fullback Gareth O’Brien joined Castleford Tigers on Monday on a loan deal through the remainder of the season.

O’Brien joined Toronto in 2018 after stints with Salford, Warrington Wolves, Swinton Lions, St Helens, Widnes Vikings and North Wales Crusaders. He spent two games on loan with Castleford while with Warrington, where he graduated from the Wolves academy.

O’Brien was named player of the year in the second-tier Betfred Championship in 2019 after scoring 22 tries in 27 games.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2020.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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Toronto Wolfpack players take to social media to protest missing paycheques – Times Colonist

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Toronto Wolfpack players took to social media Monday to protest not being paid.

“Technically stranded in U.K.,” tweeted Australian prop Darcy Lussick. “No visa so I can’t work, no help getting home to Australia as promised. About to be evicted from my house.

article continues below

“A lot of people have it a lot worse then me but this situation has gone too far now.”

Several players sent out the same social media message on a black background: “Third month of no pay for the players, staff and families of @TorontoWolfpackOfficial @RugbyFootballLeague #Forgotten #MentalHealth.”

It appears the players chose Monday to state their case because they were last paid June 10 — via June 1 paycheques, which covered May, coming late. The transatlantic rugby league team missed the July 1 and Aug. 1 payrolls.

“When are you going to step in and help the welfare of players who are contracted to your competition?” Lussick asked the Rugby Football League, the sport’s governing body in England.

The Wolfpack declined to respond “at this time” to the player complaints.

The transatlantic Wolfpack are on the selling block after standing down last month due to financial problems. Majority owner David Argyle, who is stepping aside, has guaranteed that the missing pay will come but Wolfpack chairman and CEO Bob Hunter has said Argyle is not currently in a position to make good on that promise.

Four groups are interested in purchasing the Wolfpack, according to Hunter. The hope is they might be able to help take care of the missing payroll.

Time is of the essence with Super League saying a new application to return to the league will have to be in by the end of the month.

As one of the Wolfpack’s seven import players, Lussick faces visa issues in addition to the financial problems. The imports have a visa that allows them to spend six months of the year in England, which works when the team spends time on both sides of the Atlantic.

But the pandemic has kept the players in England, meaning their visa time has run out. The Wolfpack were also providing housing for the imports, which has also been affected by the financial pinch.

Australian-born Samoan international Ricky Leutele has already signed with the Melbourne Storm for the rest of the season with fellow Wolfpack marquee player Sonny Bill Williams, a former All Black, expected to join him with the NRL’s Sydney Roosters.

The Wolfpack have told their players they are free to negotiate their own deals and go out on loan in 2020. The franchise has said it wants to field a team in 2021 but that depends on rugby league authorities and the outcome of a possible sale.

New Zealand’s Bodene Thompson has been linked to England’s Leeds Rhinos.

England international Kallum Watkins, who never got to play for the Wolfpack after signing in May, is reportedly being targeted by both the Salford Red Devils and Hull Kingston Rovers.

Fullback Gareth O’Brien joined Castleford Tigers on Monday on a loan deal through the remainder of the season.

O’Brien joined Toronto in 2018 after stints with Salford, Warrington Wolves, Swinton Lions, St Helens, Widnes Vikings and North Wales Crusaders. He spent two games on loan with Castleford while with Warrington, where he graduated from the Wolves academy.

O’Brien was named player of the year in the second-tier Betfred Championship in 2019 after scoring 22 tries in 27 games.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2020.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

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